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Fourteen years is a long time to wait, but that’s how long it took for Bert Blyleven to get into the Hall of Fame. He is a deserving selection, to be sure, but one that leaves you wondering about the others, those who straddled the line that runs between mere great and Hall of Fame great.

I've been a Hall of Fame voter since 1971, and it got me thinking about some of the players over the years who I had voted for but, for whatever reason, could not convince 75 percent of my BBWAA brothers and sisters that he belonged in the Hall of Fame. What a team they would make up, I thought, and why were so many of them first basemen, each in my mind qualified to go into the Hall of Fame? And that did not count Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, each of whom is on my restricted list.

Let’s have some fun, put forth this team and what they have done to at the very least consider Hall of Fame inclusion, and let’s hear your thoughts, for obviously there is room for much discussion:

Catcher: Ted Simmons, owner of the Hall of Fame nickname “Simba” for his flowing mane, a player who belongs in the Hall if for no other reason than you could sit and hold an intelligent discussion with him about some abstract matter for hours on end without becoming bored. More importantly, he could hit. As a switch-hitter, he had a career batting average of .285 with 248 home runs and 1,389 RBI. When you look at the 10 most similar hitters to Simmons at, you come across three Hall of Fame catchers—Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and Yogi Berra.

First base: Here we go, a position where I’m not sure what the voters have been thinking, for even if you take Palmeiro and McGwire out of the equation you are left with Don Mattingly, Keith Hernandez, and Will Clark. To give you an idea of the quality there, I would put Clark third in that group, and he batted .303 with 284 home runs and 1,205 RBI, drove in 100 or more four times, and made six All-Star teams. He, too, had a Hall of Fame nickname, “The Thrill.”

But it comes down to—and always did when they were playing—Keith and “Donnie Baseball,” and everyone who watched them had their favorite. Hernandez had his own devil to fight in drugs, while Mattingly’s biggest sin was a bad back that cut his career short. In the end, you must choose Mattingly, who hit .307 with 222 home runs and 1,099 RBI, because in his prime he was just so special with a 230-hit season with 53 doubles, nine Gold Gloves, and an MVP. If you took Hernandez, there would be no argument from me, though.

Second base: Lou Whitaker, but this will change in a year or two when Craig Biggio becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame. “Sweet Lou” was just that, sweet. He could hit, run, play second base, and  was part of a great double-play combination with Alan Trammell. His .276 career average with 244 home runs and 1,084 RBI compare well with Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, and Roberto Alomar.

At his best, Whitaker received 27 percent of the vote, which is a clear rejection, and having covered Morgan at his prime I cannot argue with that. However, Sparky Anderson, who managed both, once told me Whitaker was almost as good as Morgan. That was good enough for me.

Shortstop: Only one, Davey Concepcion. And, yes, he will always be Davey here.

I saw him come to the Reds in 1970 as a skinny kid who could barely speak English, be taken under his wing by Anderson and Tony Perez, then blossom into one of the greatest shortstops of all-time. OK, he wasn’t Honus Wagner and the game changed for shortstops when Cal Ripken Jr. came along, but Concepcion was the one Ozzie Smith edged to start winning Gold Gloves. There wasn’t anything Concepcion couldn’t do in the field, and he also became a decent hitter. I think that everyone who failed to vote for him was dead wrong.

Third base: There are three candidates here: Ron Santo, Buddy Bell, and Ken Boyer. A few weeks back, I made the case for Santo in a tribute after he died, and that hasn’t changed.

Santo hit .277 with 342 home runs, albeit with hitter-friendly Wrigley Field as his home. But anyone who ever tried to hit one out there when the wind was blowing in will tell you it was as tough as hitting one out of the Astrodome. Nine All-Star teams and five Gold Gloves fill out a Hall of Fame resume.

Left field: You can make a heck of a list here, beginning with Minnie Minoso, who is a Hall of Famer for no other reason than playing at age 54, but that .298 batting average doesn’t change matters.

The question is: Can you take him over George Foster? I know, he's another Red, but one who hit 52 homers and drove in 149 runs in one season, and finished at .274 with 348 homers and 1,239 RBI.

But guess what? I’m going to stun you here and go with Albert Belle, who just may have been the most dangerous hitter of his generation, driving in 100 or more runs in nine straight years and averaging 40 homers and 130 runs batted in over a 12-year career. Nice guy? Not at all. But what was it Leo Durocher said?

Center field: Next year, Bernie Williams will give the writers something to think about when he becomes eligible, but right now he is not in the discussion, leaving us with Devon White and Vada Pinson.

White was one of those players who was very good, but not great. That leaves us with Pinson, who once punched Earl Lawson of the Cincinnati Post, something that may have kept him out of the Hall of Fame but helped Lawson get in. Pinson wound up with 2,757 hits, a .286 batting average, 256 homers, 1,170 RBI, and 305 steals—numbers that would even play in today’s game.

I’ll take Pinson.

Right field: I want to pick Dave Parker, who could have been as good as he thought he was, but it is staggering to believe that all Larry Walker could gather was 20 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility this year. Walker's all-time numbers, even if much of them were compiled in Denver, were outstanding. He had a .313 batting average, 383 home runs, 1,311 RBI, an MVP, six Gold Gloves, five All-Star teams and—get this—consecutive years of hitting .366, .363, and .379. Obviously, he could not keep that pace, “slumping” the next year to .309 before coming back with a .350 season.

We’ll wait for another day to do the pitchers.

Thank you for reading

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How about Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe? Or Trammell at shortstop? Tim Raines? Ron Santo?

I'll go with...

C Thurman Munson (hey, if you're putting in Mattingly, I can put in Munson)
1B Pete Rose (I'll just put him here)
2B Lou Whitaker
3B Ron Santo
SS Alan Trammell
LF Tim Raines
CF Dom DiMaggio
RF Joe Jackson


I could go Bob Caruthers or Tony Mullane. I'll go Jim Kaat, though I think the Hall has done a good job of celebrating the true greats in pitching. Maybe too good a job Rube Marquard
I'm taking Joe Torre at catcher but otherwise that's a rock solid roster.

Graig Nettles is arguably better than Boyer or Bell.

We're going very old here but Ross Barnes, to the extent stats that old are meaningful, has an interesting case (as Mike Rogers at Beyond the Boxscore recently wrote). 30.0 fWAR in only 499 games (short seasons) mostly in the 1870s...
40.2 WARP for Barnes as well
Let's be fair here: Rose and Shoeless Joe aren't eligible, reasonable to exclude them because the author says he's talking about players who were denied inclusion by the writers (and presumably by the VC as well).

Also, unless this article was edited after Nick's post...Hertzel *did* choose Santo for 3B.

Agreed on Trammell and Raines being better choices. Not so much on Munson though.
Bob seems to exclude most (but not all) candidates who have become eligible so recently that it is still unclear whether they will eventually be elected. At the very least, he seems to exclude candidates that he thinks "will be" elected at some point. His willingness to discuss Walker can be interpreted as skepticism that Walker will ever get the call. As for Raines getting in, and therefore not being in Bob's discussion, that's a no-brainer unless the voters are complete idiots. Wait a minute, what did I say there...
Nick's team would beat Bob's, easily. Bob's reasoning often seems flimsy by the standards of this site. "Minoso is a Hall of Famer for no other reason than playing at 54"? Seriously? He seems to only be aware of modern players, and he uses triple crown stats instead of the many more sophisticated metrics dreamed up seemingly daily by Prospectus-ers. Bob needs to study Jay Jaffe's articles before being allowed to write another article about the Hall of Fame.
Note that Bob didn't actually say Minoso should be his preferred non-HoF RF; he went for Albert Belle, a much superior player, instead. The age-54 comment is a narrative hook, plain and simple, and a good story teller uses such things. As for whether Nick's team would beat Bob's, that depends in no small part on whether Rose and Jackson decided to throw the game for gambling reasons. To be a bit less acrid, Bob's list implies eligibility for the real HoF. Nick's does not. Apples and oranges. And at catcher, you're both falling prey to exactly the story-line bias that you criticize in Bob. Simmons outhit Munson over the course of his career (whether you use advanced metrics or not), had a higher peak, and did it for FAR longer, extending into decline years that Munson never got to. The only argument for Munson over Simmons is the story line. A similar problem exists with Pinson and DiMaggio, where they had very similar levels of performance but Pinson maintained his much longer (in DiMaggio's defense, military service truncated his career).

To me the glaring omission from both lists is Bobby Grich. I cannot think of any reasonable metric by which Whitaker rates ahead of Grich at second.
Amen Bill, I like Sweet Lou and think he belongs in the Hall, just after Bobby Grich gets in.
It's one thing for writers to not vote for guys like Raffy or McGwire, but phrases like "restricted list" are completely infuriating. Major League Baseball doesn't say that steroid users--even today, let alone before it was even against the rules in McGwire's case--are ineligible for Hall of Fame inclusion, so what right do the writers have to completely dismiss them without even considering their cases?
Completely agreed. Unless the rules are changed to say that steroid users are ineligible for the Hall, they should receive fair consideration.
But then, the problem is really that there is no clarity about what the Hall is meant to represent. Should it be a medium to tell the story of baseball, in which case the criterion for entry should be that people have made a suitable substantial impact on the game, regardless of issues to do with gambling, drugs or anything else, or is it meant to be some sort of accolade at the end of a great career, in which case character issues, however defined, are legitimate. And yes, I'm aware that there are people in the Hall of Fame already who have a variety of different character issues, and that the use of drugs in baseball is not something that began with steroids.

Also, it isn't clear what fair consideration would be - do we knock something off the numbers for steroid users? Does the manner in which drugs were used matter - should a player who makes a mistake when he was young be treated more leniently than one who used steroids or other drugs systematically for years. It's going to be fun when Barry Bonds is on the ballot.
His article was changed after I posted about Santo.
I'm confused. Was Bagwell also on your "restricted list"? 'Cause he strikes me as a better candidate than all of the 1Bs you listed.
No mention of Dick Allen? Granted, he switched between positions, and maybe can't be pinned down to one of the positions discussed, but he was one of the preeminent power hitters of the '60s and '70s. Just look at his stats and compare him to the players discussed here. He rated at least a mention.
Indeed. IMHO, Dick Allen is the single most impressive player not in the Hall of Fame. He certainly merts all the criteria for selection. So why isn't he in? He was a prickly, if not actually unpleasant guy, who never kissed a writer's ass in his career, and has never acquired effective advocates, as Blyleven did. Jay? Jay?
Count me as another voter for Bobby Grich.

Also, I met Albert Belle once after he retired and had a nice chat with him, mainly about LSU's run to the CWS one year. I came away thinking he was a pretty nice guy.
I'd pick John Olerud or Fred McGriff easily over Mattingly at 1B. I'd probably take Dwight Evans in right over Larry Walker, definitely over Dave Parker
And if your going on peak alone, Fred Lynn in center.
I loved watching Lynn as a kid - favorite player hands down. And he would have some old-school metrics in his favor, such as being the only player (other than Ichiro) to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season.

And, if I remember correctly, he hit four home runs in All*Star games during his career. I mean, you have got to be kidding!!! Who does that and doesn't get in the Hall?

Also, I've heard him as an announcer on tv broadcasts for more than one west coast game (can't remember who the broadcaster was), and I thought he was very good at it. Would love to see him replace Joe Morgan (...when Joe is ready to retire...).

But all that said, his career totals fall way short of HoF criteria due to his injuries. And, I believe there was a perception in the media that he wouldn't tough it out and play when he was less than 100%. I think that perception hurt his case as much as anything else...
Evidenced by reaching 600 plate appearances in just 4 seasons.
Bobby Grich was one of my favorite players long before I'd heard of Bill James, and I was delighted to find that better metrics rated his accomplishments highly. I think it's a lost cause, but I still hope he'll somehow get his broader recognition, from the HOF or some other way.
I like these types of articles since it's fun to argue about. I'm not exactly sure who qualifies for the list though. He seems to have omitted eligible players who are still on the ballot, but appear to have a chance (Larkin & Raines), but left on others who are still on the ballot, but appear not to have a chance (Mattingly). So my picks are:

C- Simmons
1B- Bagwell (if he doesn't qualify for either having too much support or steroid rumors, then McGriff).
2B- Grich in a squeaker over Whitaker
SS- Larkin (Trammell if Larkin doesn't qualify)
3B- Santo
LF- Raines (Belle, if Raines doesn't qualify)
CF- Lynn (Yes his peak was high mafrth, but he also lasted playing 17 seasons albeit with some time on the DL)
RF- Evans

In terms of guys who should be in the Hall of Fame, I'll take Ron Santo and Tim Raines. I almost find it more interesting to talk about guys who were terrific baseball players at their peaks, but don't cross my line as Hall of Famers. I'll throw out Jack Clark as one such player. He was a FEARSOME hitter for a while, in the context of his team and ballpark. Dewey Evans is another of my favorites. Hell of a player. It is no insult to say that someone is not a Hall of Famer.
The thing is, that there are way more outfielders and firstbasemen in the Hall at the expense of middle infielders, so all of those outfielders who made your list are far less deserving than some middle infielders who didn't: most agrieviously: Larkin, Grich, and Trammell.

It's your take, however - analysis based on anecdotes. It is almost refreshing to see such an un-sabermetric slant on BP. Although, you aren't going to convince many of us.
That this guy has a vote says everything you need to know about what is wrong with the HOF. That this guy writes for BP says every you need to know about how much BP has changed, and why this the year I don't renew my subscription.

Grich, Trammell, Raines not even mentioned.
Man, dogmatism and a humorless adherence to orthodoxy are pretty unattractive and useless no matter what side of a discussion you are coming from. I am NOT a huge Bob Hertzel fan—his bit on how "Willie Mays, Duke Snyder and Mickey Mantel were all pretty good" was one of the most pointless and vapid things that I have ever read—but this level of anger at guy for expressing an opinion that isn’t yours strikes me as deeply bizarre and unhelpful.

I even think that you might have something when you say that Hertzel illustrates a lot of what’s wrong with the HOF—but if that's the case, aren't you better off for having some insight into what's going on in the minds of the people you disagree with?
I guess I have a special dislike for Hertzel as I grew up in Cincinnati, and had to read him when I was 12. (I even bought his book 35 years ago) Everything he writes reads like one of those old Baseball Digest articles I outgrew a long time ago. I didn't sign up for BP to read back issues of the Cincinnati Enquirer circa 1976.

Hertzel would be worth reading for "insight into what's going on in the minds of the people you disagree with" if his perspective was unique, unpredictable, or well reasoned.
I think we should remember that this article was about the players Bob actually had a chance to vote for; hence so many players from the 70s and 80s. Still, I think recognizing the players from all eras that have been snubbed is more interesting.

My picks (excluding anyone still eligible, and those who have been banned):

C- Ted Simmons- I can't argue with Bob's pick here. An eight-time all-star who would have gotten much more recognition if he hadn't been overshadowed by Bench during his peak.

1B- Dick Allen- He spent more time at 1B than 3B, and was far better than Mattingly, even allowing for Donnie's better defense (see for a wOBA comparison that leaves little doubt). A ROY and MVP winner, he led the league in OPS four times, and HR twice.

2B- Whitaker/Grich- Tough call- I would like to see both Lou and Grich in the HOF. Similar enough that I can't see putting one in and not the other. But I'll go with Bob's pick of Whitaker.

SS- Bill Dahlen- Trammell would be my next pick if Dahlen's distant era (he played at the turn of the 20th century) excludes him from consideration. But all things being equal, Dahlen is one of the most valuable players not in the Hall. Over 50 SB, nearly 2500 hits, and a career OBP of .358 as a SS make a strong HOF case. Modern metrics also suggest that he was a good defender, and he remained a pretty effective player through his late thirties, according to Wins above Replacement (WAR).

3B- Ron Santo- One of the more egregious HOF snubs. A nine time all-star, four time gold glove winner, who appeared on six MVP ballots. He's easily a top 10 3B all-time, and much better than some of the others at the position in the Hall. His sin was a fantastic OBP at a time when batting average meant everything.

RF- Dwight Evans- This kind of selection won't happen until defense gets its due in HOF voting. With 8 Gold Gloves (and seven finishes among the top five RF in Range Factor per 9 Innings to back those trophies up) Evans was considered one of the best OF defenders of the late 70s and early 80s. After leading the league in RF assists in 1975 and 1976, fewer runners tested his arm, though he still led the league one more time in 1979 and finished in the top three in four additional seasons. Combine this sparkling defense with a career OPS slash line of .370/.470/.840, leading the league in OPS twice(and a .397/.580/.977 line in two World Series), 385 HR (11 seasons over 20), MVP votes in five seasons (finishing as high as fourth), and two silver slugger awards, and you have a HOF case.

CF Reggie Smith- Seven-time all-star, he also received MVP votes in seven different seasons, including two fourth place finishes. Career OPS+ of 137, and a good OPS slash line (.366/.489/.855) and HR total (314) for a CF. He only won a single Gold Glove, but he finished in the top three for Range Factor per Game for outfielders from 1967-1971, and then again in 1973. With 80 fielding Runs over his career, advanced metrics count him as one of the top defensive outfielders ever. In my opinion, he's a much stronger candidate than Pinson, Devon White, or Bernie Williams.

LF Sherry Magee- Playing his whole career in the dead ball era, Magee doesn't have the gaudy power numbers associated with most LF HOF candidates. But, owning a career OPS+ of 136, he was one of the most fearsome hitters of his time. Though he was fleet-footed (441 SB), he also hit for what constituted power at th time, twice leading the league in slugging and total bases, and claiming the RBI title four times. According to fWAR (the system), he was worth over six wins in six separate seasons, and over four wins in ten different seasons. That's a pretty nice decade-long peak.

P- Tiant- I know that Bob plans to discuss pitchers in another piece, but I just can't resist asking how a guy who: 1)twice led the league in ERA+ with season ERAs of 1.60 and 1.91, 2) had six seasons of ERAs under 3.00, 3)had four 20-win seasons, and 4) had seven seasons with WHIPs under 1.14 (including finishes of .871, 1.078, and 1.085) is not in the HOF. His career numbers over 19 seasons: ERA- 3.30, WHIP- 1.19, including seven seasons with finishes in the top ten in ERA+, and seven seasons in the top ten for shutouts (leading the league in three of those seasons, and finishing 21st all-time in that regard, even though shutouts were increasingly rare in his era).

In 1975 he basically pitched a complete game shutout in the ALCS (technically, an unearned run scored, due to errors), striking out eight. He then went on to start 3 games in the World Series, going 2-0, and carrying an ERA of 3.60 over 25(!) innings. He only has 229 wins, and I'm guessing that mixed with bad timing for his periods of utter dominance doomed him (for example, he was overshadowed by McLain's 31 wins despite better peripherals and 21 wins in 1968). But his all-time rankings among pitchers in WAR (41st), strikeouts (35th), and Win Probability Added (39th) suggest that he's a top-40 pitcher who belongs in the HOF.

Anyhow, that's my two cents...
Last I checked, Bobby Grinch, Alan Trammell and Tim Raines were players from the 80s.

And just as a little aside, Will Clark, Devon White, Buddy Bell and Larry Walker are the only players he considered who had the primes of their career west of St. Louis. Maybe not that surprising since Hertzel was based out of Cincinnati.
I wasn't saying that his picks are justified- I only mentioned the 70s and 80s to explain some of the earlier omissions. Obviously I think snubbing guys like Grich and Trammel doesn't make sense since I would have them on my ballot. I agree that the counting stats used in the article are only near approximations of what actually ought to be measured, and I base most of my thinking on adjusted value-based stats.
To the above quote (since the direct reply function doesn't seem to be working): "That this guy has a vote says everything you need to know about what is wrong with the HOF. That this guy writes for BP says every you need to know about how much BP has changed, and why this the year I don't renew my subscription." - That's kinda what I was thinking too.
It is so annoying that BP publishes a colorful old farts baseball commentary every couple of weeks on some random topic. And I cannot even choose to ignore those articles, I am forced to read every candy-coated sentence! This inclusion of one writer who doesn't toe the "statistical analysis" line completely destroys the WARP of BP as compared to replacement level baseball analysis. You should definitely cancel your subscription immediately. And while at it, stop watching baseball entirely until MLB managers and execs start following all of our philosophies.